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How High School Students are Researching Higher Ed Institutions in 2021: Tools and Opinions

Academica Group and Glacier surveyed over 1,400 high school students in the first quarter of 2021 exploring high school students’ usage of marketing and branding resources for postsecondary institutions.


Marketing initiatives play a critical part of high school students’ decisions around higher education. That’s why Academica and Glacier collaborated on an online survey to explore high school students’ usage of marketing and branding resources for postsecondary institutions. This report covers the results of the third annual Gen Z Media Survey and outlines what we discovered from talking to over 1,400 high school students across Canada.

High school students were very curious about what colleges, universities, and polytechnics had to offer. When asked about the information they wanted to receive about higher education, their responses echoed their priorities for higher education. They said that they were most interested in receiving information about programs, the costs of attending, upcoming dates and deadlines, and life on campus.

To learn more about postsecondary institutions, high school students said that they had already turned to a mix of official and unofficial sources of information about their options: Institutional websites, social media and online forums, school rankings such as Maclean’s, postsecondary school viewbooks and brochures, and other education-related websites.

Have you used any of the following to learn about postsecondary schools?

University/college fairs and tours typically see much higher uptake by this point in the year (2020 Glacier-Academica Study, UCAS 2020 findings), but factors such as provincial lockdowns and internet or technology limitations impacted institutions’ ability to hold these events in person or online and students’ capacity to attend.

There were some regional differences in the avenues used to learn more about higher ed: Ontario high school students tended to be more likely to use other education-related websites (48%) and less likely to use postsecondary viewbooks (33%) or virtual presentations from recruiters (16%); and students from British Columbia more commonly reported using social media (65%), university/college fairs (30%), and virtual presentations from recruiters (30%) to learn more.

High school students most commonly spoke to family members (88%), friends (84%), and teachers (48%) about higher education. Students in Atlantic Canada were especially likely to say that they spoke to their teachers (66%) about higher education. Of these, students most commonly said that they trusted their family members (59%), friends (37%), and teachers most. Students in Atlantic Canada more commonly spoke to (66%) and trusted (43%) their teachers.

Whose Opinions are Trusted the Most about Postsecondary

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